More than 130 former RCAF soldiers traveled from Siem Reap province to protest in front of the National Assembly and Ministry of Economics and Finance on Monday, demanding years of back pay they say is owed to them by the government.
“I gave up everything to become a soldier and work for the government,” said Min Doeung, 60, who added that he hasn’t been paid his pension since his 2001 retirement. “Do not order us to work when we are young and then abandon us when we get old,” he said.
There are over 1,000 former soldiers in Siem Reap who are awaiting payment, according to amputee Oth Soeub, who added that he is owed his $26 monthly pension from 2001, 2003 and 2005.
“I just need my salary to feed my family,” Oth Soeub said. “I do not want to protest here. I just want to get what I should be given for the work I have done for my country,” he said.
Officials from the Ministry of Economics and Finance who declined to be named asked the protesters to return to their homes and offered $50 to rent trucks for their transportation.
“We need them to return home,” one official said. “This is an illegal assembly. Everything will be solved in January of next year.”
Nonetheless, the protesters remained in Phnom Penh.
“The officials in Siem Reap used to promise to find a solution, but nothing has been given to us,” said Min Saruon, who was protesting on behalf of her amputee husband. “I do not need promises, because promises have never turned into actual payment.”
Protesters also said that when they did receive their salaries, officials at the provincial Social Affairs Department sometimes deducted 20 percent.
Siem Reap provincial Social Affairs Department Director Sea Sun said he had never ordered his officials to deduct the pensions of amputee and retired troopers and declined comment as to why the salaries went unpaid.
Numerous attempts to reach Ministry of Economics and Finance officials for comment were unsuccessful.